White House Official Accused of Trying to Hide Communications

A conservative think tank is alleging the White House is skirting transparency laws by allowing President Barack Obama’s science adviser to use a private email account to conduct government business.

President Barack Obama walks with John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, at the White House in Washington, Friday, March 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

The Competitive Enterprise Institute has sued the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to produce the work-related emails of its director, John Holdren, that were sent from a private email account and thus hidden from the Freedom of Information Act and archiving laws.

The lawsuit alleges that Holdren used an email account from his former employer Woods Hole Research Center, an environmental advocacy group.

“The use of such non-official accounts for agency business frustrates federal open-government laws, and undermines government accountability, since such accounts are generally not searched in response to FOIA or congressional oversight requests seeking work-related communications or agency records,” Competitive Enterprise Institute attorney Hans Bader said in a blog post. “Moreover, the use of email accounts at a former employer that lobbies the federal government gives such pressure groups direct access to and control over public records, including highly sensitive information.”

This is the latest of many questions surrounding access to records that have dogged the White House since Obama vowed on his first full day in office that “transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

The institute discovered the records discrepancy after reviewing documents it obtained through a FOIA lawsuit in which former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson had used an e-mail with the name Richard Windsor to avoid having some of her communications subject to FOIA.

The lawsuit pointed out that in 2010, Holdren admonished employees not to conduct official business from private email accounts.

The Washington Examiner reported on a May 10, 2010 memo from Holdren to employees in which he said: “In the course of responding to the recent FOIA request, OSTP learned that an employee had, in a number of instances, inadvertently failed [to] forward to his OSTP email account work-related emails received on his personal account. The employee has since taken corrective action by forwarding these additional emails from his personal account to his OSTP account so that all of the work-related emails are properly preserved in his OSTP account.”

So under the rules he talked about, Holdren was obligated to copy his official business correspondence on the private email to the OSTP’s FOIA officer for record-keeping.

“Apparently, the longer an official is in power, and the less he fears losing power, the less he cares about government transparency and the rule of law,” Bader wrote.

Neither the White House nor the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy responded to requests for comment from TheBlaze Tuesday.

(H/T: The Washington Examiner)